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Baltimore Ravens Offseason Outlook

In 2008, Ozzie Newsome looked like a rocket scientist with a doctorate from Harvard after trading down with Jacksonville to obtain Joe Flacco while Jacksonville reached for Derrick Harvey with a top 10 pick.  The Delaware signal caller has helped the Ravens get to 4 straight playoff appearances.  Every playoff team they lose to has gone on to become the AFC Champion.

Flacco would get Baltimore to an AFC Title game as a rookie with easy playoff draws against a Miami Dolphins team and a Titans team with home field.  Kerry Collins was subpar and the Titans had the quarterback ordeal with Kerry Collins and Vince Young.  The Titans getting home field that year was an accomplishment in itself.

A year later, Baltimore invaded Gillette Stadium to knock off the New England Patriots before losing to the eventual AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts.  Baltimore had me believing they could be a dangerous team if they got Flacco the right supporting cast.

After the 2010 NFL Draft, I thought Baltimore had the pieces in place to win a Super Bowl with Anquan Boldin along with tight ends like Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta behind Todd Heap.  I picked the Ravens to face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl that year.  The 49ers miss the playoffs and fire their coach.  Baltimore has a 21 to 7 lead thanks to 2 scores on turnovers at halftime.  Cameron’s inept play calling and Ben Roethlisberger’s will to win with no pass protection helps Pittsburgh sweep Baltimore out of the playoffs.

This season I thought Baltimore could get home field before losing to New England in the AFC Title.  I picked Baltimore to win the first meeting against Pittsburgh.  Then I thought Pittsburgh would beat New England and lose to Baltimore because Baltimore did not use their young offense to their fullest potential in the 2nd meeting.

The Baltimore Ravens have 11 starters on both sides of the ball.  The Ravens are a team with the luxury of taking the best players available in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Free Agency Recap

The only major loss to free agency was the loss of left guard Ben Grubbs.  Grubbs signed with the New Orleans Saints.  Jah Reed a 2011 3rd round pick from Central Florida is expected to compete with undrafted free agent left guard Justin Boren for the left guard job.  Boren did a great job in between 2012 offensive line prospects left tackle Mike Adams and center Michael Brewster on Ohio State’s offensive line.

2012 NFL Draft Needs

Baltimore does not have any major needs.  I will list 5 different players that Baltimore could draft.

Donta Hightower 3-4 MLB Alabama or Cordy Glenn OT/G Georgia I think Hightower or Glenn is going to Pittsburgh at 24.  Whoever Pittsburgh passes on will be suiting up for the Ravens in 2012.

Baltimore has Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain.  Ozzie Newsome hinted the idea of adding a 3-4 middle linebacker to groom behind Lewis.  Newsome might get that player if Hightower is there at 29.

The Ravens may move Oher back to left tackle leaving an opening at right tackle when left tackle Bryant McKinnie retires.  The other thing to consider is Glenn could immediately start over Jah Reed who was a backup right tackle last season or Justin Boren.  Adding Glenn as a starting left guard allows you to make Jah Reed the backup right guard behind Marshall Yanda or keep him as a backup right tackle for one more year of development.

Nelson Rosario WR UCLA Ozzie Newsome has expressed a dire interest in obtaining a wide receiver with size.  Nelson Rosario is a 6 foot 5 219 pound wide receiver that is going unnoticed by teams.  If you watch his route running, ability to learn an NFL playbook so quickly you see a 2nd round talent on tape.

Rosario commanded double teams and helped UCLA teammate tight end Cory Harkey who I got graded out as my top tight end after Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

Nelson Rosario ranks 5th on UCLA’s all time school list for receptions with 146 and receiving yards 2,362.  Rosario ran track and field in high school.  Rosario had a sick 4.39 40 time at UCLA’s pro day.  Rosario has sick jumping ability and knows how to move the chains averaging over 10 yards per catch.  Rosario may not have the best production, he has an incredibly high ceiling though.

Rosario models his game after wide receivers like Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.  Rosario became a history major at UCLA.

Rosario had 64 recepitons, 1,161 receiving yards, 18.1 yards per catch, and 5 receiving touchdowns in 2011.

Rosario had a career high 9 receptions against Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden in 2010 before Bolden became injury prone at Arizona State.  In 2009, Rosario had 152 receiving yards against Oregon State as a sophomore.

Oregon gained a 21 to 0 lead over UCLA in the first ever PAC 12 Championship.  One of the reasons why UCLA saved face only losing 49 to 31 to Oregon was because of Rosario’s ability to step up in the second half.

Rosario had 6 receptions, 98 receiving yards, and 2 receiving touchdowns against Cliff Harris who was once considered a 2012 first round pick before his off the field character issues.

UCLA had strong play at running back and tight end.  Rosario stepping up as the #1 target commanding double teams helped UCLA.

Poor coaching by Rick Neuheisel along with a lack of quarterback or offensive line play really kept UCLA from winning games.  This team had the playmakers in place to contend if they had good quarterback and offensive line play.

Nelson Rosario and Torrey Smith can be the starting wide receivers in 2 wide receiver sets.  When using 3 wide receiver sets Rosario and Boldin can play on the outside with Torrey Smith being used in the slot against nickel cornerbacks as a vertical deep threat.

Every year the teams picking at the bottom like Baltimore, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New York Giants, New England find these diamonds in the rough and mold them into draft gems.

Chris Givens WR Wake Forest With Givens you have depth at all 3 wide receiver spots.  David Reed a 2010 5th round pick, Tandon Doss a 2011 4th round pick, and Chris Givens a 2012 3rd round pick can compete to be those depth receivers.

Gino Gradkowski C/G Delaware Gino Gradkowski can play anywhere on the interior offensive line at left guard, center, or right guard.

Buddy Jackson CB Pittsburgh The last field cornerback to come out of Pittsburgh had an island named after him.  Like Revis Island, Jackson’s hometown Plantation, FL is a tropical paradise.

Jackson can lockdown #1 receivers by playing man, zone, or press. Buddy Jackson weighs 6 foot 1 190 pounds plays on special teams.  Jackson ran a 4.3 40 time at Pittsburgh’s pro day.    Jackson can be used as a tackler or a returner on special teams.

The Ravens could pay homage to Revis Island by referring to Buddy Jackson’s coverage zone as Jackson’s Jungle.  Then the Ravens could play Welcome to the Jungle music whenever Buddy Jackson returns a pick 6 against the Bengals just to irritate Bengals fans who love that song when their team scores.

The Ravens are going to win a Super Bowl eventually with their scouting department continuing to find premium talent in the later rounds.

The Ravens already have tremendous cornerbacks with LaDarius Webb and Jimmy Smith.  Buddy Jackson can compete with 3 other Ravens cornerbacks for a roster spot.  Cary Williams who had 78 tackles last season, Corey Graham a small school corner, and Chykie Brown who was ranked ahead of Curtis Brown on the Longhorns cornerback depth chart.

Worst case scenario Buddy Jackson is delegated to special teams.  Best case scenario, he becomes a draft steal and the next Darrelle Revis.  This is practically a minimal risk maximum reward draft scenario for Baltimore in round 5.

2012 Ravens Draft Strategy

The Ravens will either take the best players available or take players that they scheduled individual workouts with.  Ozzie Newsome has a lot of flexibility in 2012.

Playoffs or No Playoffs?  Playoffs The Ravens have the luxury of taking the best available player.  The Ravens do have a brutal schedule facing NFC East teams, Houston, and New England.   I really think this is a toss up.  Worse case scenario for the Ravens their 8-8 and miss the playoffs due to brutal schedule.  Best case scenario the Ravens go 10-6 and get a wild card.

One thing I will say is if Baltimore gets in, they will get in as a wild card due to the schedule.  I think getting in as a wild card will give the Ravens this us against the world mentality with Flacco in his contract year knowing this is all or nothing having to play every playoff game on the road or go home with nothing.

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were both on the brink of retirement before coming back would also be another advantage with Baltimore getting to the playoffs.  Baltimore has to let their guard down with home field or fail to qualify for the playoffs to be removed from the Super Bowl contender conversation.